The Joe Sestak affair offers another opportunity to peek underneath the curtain at the sleazy underbelly of Washington and Chicago politics. On Friday both the White House and Rep. Joe Sestak released statements to the press, following the political tradition of releasing information concerning any potential political scandals at the start of a holiday weekend in the hopes that no one will be paying attention.
In a February, 2010 interview, Sestak claimed that the White House had offered him a “high-profile” White House job if he would end his plans to challenge party-jumping Arlen Specter for the Pennsylvania Senate Seat in the primary elections. Interest in the incident has been dormant until this week when it suddenly bubbled to the surface as a national issue.
Early speculation was that the offer was for a job as Secretary of the Navy (Sestak is a retired Admiral). In the Friday statement released by the White House, WH Counsel, Robert Bauer refuted the claim, stating that the offer was only an unpaid position on a presidential advisory board. In return for the unpaid advisory position, Sestak would remain in his position as the Congressman of Pennsylvania’s Seventh Congressional District and not challenge Specter in the Pennsylvania Primary.
The Democratic hope is that by the job being only an unpaid advisory position the American people will consider it as no big deal and the whole affair will be quickly forgotten. In a blog post today, Kansas City Star editorial page columnist, Barb Shelly expressed that hope in a column titled “Sestak job offer scandal deflating rapidly”. In it she says, “I hear the sound of air leaking out of this scandal balloon. Political horse-trading isn’t exactly a novel concept in Washington, and it’s hard to equate an offer for an unpaid position, however prestigious, to bribery”.
Not so fast, Barb. Even if we accept the idea that the White House would consider the offer of a non-paying advisory job as an adequate bribe for a sitting Congressman with his eye on bigger things, there are still some questions that deserve answers. I will leave the political and legal wrangling to the Legal Eagles and Party Hit-men for now. An even more important issue for the American people is the perversion of the Constitution and the contempt for its requirements shown by the White House in making the offer. This aspect seems to be completely overlooked by the media and the political class.
Article I says, “1.6.4 No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; 1.6.5 and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.
The purpose of these two clauses is to maintain the separation and independent status between the branches of government. Clause 4 was sidestepped by Obama when he appointed Hillary Clinton to the office of Secretary of State by having her serve as Secretary at the same salary that was in place at the time of her election to the Senate. Only a few people raised the issue at the time and it was soon forgotten. The Sestak offer is a little more difficult to explain away.
If the rumor of an offer of a job as Secretary of State is true and Sestak had accepted, it would have constituted an outright bribe that could not be defended. In taking the job, it would be necessary for Sestak to resign his house seat and withdraw from the Senate race making it a quid pro quo offer. Bribery is an impeachable offense under the clear language of Article II, Section 4 which states “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Since the offer originated with Obama, he is the one that would be at risk of impeachment.
In denying the Secretary job offer and instead admitting to an offer that would let Sestak serve in the House while also holding an office in the Executive Branch, Obama is admitting to a clear violation of clause 5 above. The fact that the position is unpaid and only an advisory position is immaterial. The purpose of these two clauses is to prevent one branch of government from being in a position to coercively influence decisions made by another branch. Although there may not be a salary involved, serving on a board in the Executive branch would ultimately makes the President Sestak’s “boss” which is a clear violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.
While the “Sestak affair” may well be dismissed by the media and the Democrats as insignificant, like the sexually predatory inclinations of Bill Clinton, or the amateurish burglarizing of a political opponent’s office by Richard Nixon’s operatives, it could also be setting up the American people to endure another impeachment spectacle if the Republicans gain control of Congress in the November elections. In this case, it may be worth it because it would, at least temporarily, stop Obama’s headlong push of America into socialism and if successful, remove him from office.